10 Top Tips for Multistage and Multi-Day Racing

Running is running yes? Anyone can do it! Well I guess the answer is yes. However, variables come in to play. Running is broken down into many different distances, from 100m to 100-miles and beyond. The longer we run, the more the challenges and requirements on a runner change. Running for multiple days or running a multistage race on mixed terrain throws up many different scenarios. Over the years I have spoken with many champions who have raced in the sands of the Sahara, the forests of Costa Rica and the mountainous paths of Nepal. They all provide me with similar hints ’n’ tips to a successful multistage race.

TOP 10 TIPS FOR A MULTISTAGE

1 – RUNNING IN THE SAND

Desert races are very popular. Marathon des Sables for example is the father of multistage racing and over the years, many races have followed in the MDS format. A desert race is never all dunes but some races have more soft sand than others, so, be prepared. To avoid getting tired it’s important to read the terrain. Carve your own path running on fresh sand and when possible, run along the ridges. In smaller dunes (dunettes) it can be beneficial to run in tracks left by others, at all times, run light as though running on ice – you don’t want to sink in the sand!

2 – HYDRATION

Dehydration is a real risk in any race, particularly a self-sufficient race where water is rationed. The risks of dehydration increase when the mercury rises and a lack of cover comes. A desert for example will be open, have intense heat but humidity will be low. By contrast, a jungle such as those found in Costa Rica may well have plenty of tree cover and streams to cool off in but the humidity will be through the roof. In both scenarios it’s important to drink regularly. Take small and regular sips of water and supplement lost salt with salt tablets. Races like Marathon des Sables provide salt tablets at aid stations and they recommend dosage. Other races you will need to think of this and plan accordingly. Also think about food choices on the trail and when in camp – food rich in minerals and salts will also help you. Importantly, multistage racing is about management from day-to-day and this is what can trip people up. Think about the event as a whole and make sure you recover after each day – rehydrating is as important post a run as when running.

3 – BLISTERS

Many a multistage race is ruined by bad personal management of feet. Think about this well in advance of the race by choosing socks and shoes that work for you. Also choose shoes appropriate for the terrain you will be racing on. A shoe for MDS will be very different to a shoe for the Himalayas for example. By all means take advice on shoes from previous competitors BUT you are unique and your needs are unique. Do you pronate? Do you supinate? Do you need a low or high drop? Do you prefer a cushioned shoe or a more minimalist shoe? What about grip, do you need any? Do you need to fit gaiters? The questions can go on and on and only you can make a choice. If all this is new to you. Go to a running store that understand runners and can provide expert and impartial advice. They will assess you and your run style and provide advice. One consideration for multistage racing is that your foot ‘can’ possibly swell due to variables such as heat, running day-after-day and so on. Your foot will not go longer, but it may go wider. So, think about shoes that have some room in the toe box. Don’t purchase shoes that are 1 or 2 sizes larger – this is poor advice. Larger shoes will only allow your foot to move… a moving foot causes friction, friction increases the risk of soreness and soreness will lead to a blister. Also think about walking. Many people choose a shoe because they are good to run in… But how do they feel when you walk? Remember, a multistage race can involve a great deal of walking!

Do you have sensitive feet? If so, you can prepare your feet in the run-up to an event. Also make sure your nails are trimmed back. While racing, if you have blisters, stop and get them treated as soon as possible. Take responsibility and learn basic footsore before an event. You need to make sure you can make any necessary treatments. Finally, many races have a medical team that are provided to look after you and your feet. Don’t hesitate to use them, but remember, there may be a big line waiting. Self-care is an excellent way to make sure that you are ready to run in your own timeline.

4 – BALANCED PACK

Not all multistage races are the same. The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, for example, is not self-sufficient so a runner only needs to carry liquid, snack food and any ‘mandatory’ kit. By contrast, a self-sufficient multistage race requires you to carry everything. A simple rule is keep everything as light as possible and keep your pack balanced. Luxuries really are luxuries in a race over multiple days so really ask yourself, do I need to take that? You will need mandatory kit as specified by the race and in addition you will need (as a guide):

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping matt
  • Warm layer
  • Spare socks
  • Food (minimum calories are specified per day)

Clothes, shoes, hat, sunglasses –  but you will be wearing these so they don’t go in the pack.

That’s it. Keep it simple and if at all possible, get your pack with its contents as close the minimum weight as specified by the race.

By general consensus, a luxury item is considered a music player (or 2) such as an iPod shuffle.

Also remember that minimum pack weight will be without water, so, if your pack weighs 6.5kg, you will have to add 1.5kg on the start line on day 1. This is where a front pack or a pack where bottles sit on the front works really well. Bottles on the front help balance the front and the back and provide a greater running experience. Also, think about items your need whilst running… it’s not a good idea having them in the back, they need to be at the front so you can access them ‘on-the-go!’

Many packs are available to choose from and you will see two or three are very popular – WAA, Ultimate Direction and Raidlight. Choosing a pack is light choosing shoes; we are all personal. However, keep a pack simple, make sure it’s comfortable and make sure it has little or no bounce when running/ walking.

Consider joining a multistage/ multi-day training camp HERE

5 – PROTECT FROM THE SUN

The sun can be a killer in any race, single stage or multistage – use sun protection and apply it daily. Also use products like arm coolers, a hat and a buff. At aid stations or whilst racing, you can keep these wet which will help cool you. Particularly the buff. If you overheat, slow down and apply cold/ water to the back of the neck. Use UV protective clothing and the jury is out on if clothing should be tight or loose. This often comes down to personal preference.

6 – EAT WELL

Any multistage race is quickly broken down into three phases – running, eating and sleeping. Food is a really important part of any race as it has to perform many functions. Most importantly, it has to sustain you so you will need carbohydrate, protein and fat. Individual requirements will vary but carbs will restore energy, protein will repair and fat is essential as this is one of the primary fuel sources for a multistage race. Remember though, our bodies have an unlimited reserve of fat. It’s important to understand that your diet whilst training may well be very different to when racing. In training you may well have eaten less carbs to teach your body to use fat, but when racing, you need to recover and be ready to run/race again the next day. Have variety in your food as your palette will change with fatigue, dehydration and heat. Real foods are good but dehydrated food also has a place. You also need to decide if you will require a stove for heating water? Don’t think twice about stepping up a little on the organization’s requisite minimum daily dose of 2,000 calories a day, remember though, it’s all weight!

7 – REST

Rest is crucial and how much you get will depend on how fast you run. Front runners have no shortage of rest time, however, those at the back of the race get minimal rest. Make sure you have a good sleeping bag that is warm enough for you and is as light and packs small as possible. You can save weight by not carrying a sleeping matt – general consensus says that carrying one is worthwhile as sitting and sleeping is much more comfortable. Matts come in two types: inflatable or sold foam. Inflatable matts work really well, pack small but you run the risk of a puncture without diligence. Foam matts won’t puncture but they can be bulky.

Make sure you have a warm layer for comfort, temperatures drop with darkness. A jacket (usually down) will also allow you to add warmth while sleeping if required. A lightweight sleeping bag and down jacket is preferable (by general consensus) over a combination sleeping bag that turns into a jacket. A jacket and bag offers flexibility, weighs less and packs smaller but will be considerably more expensive.

8 – PACE

Remember that you have entered a race that lasts multiple days. Spread your effort and have the big picture in mind – pace yourself. Don’t set off too quickly and consider race profiles, distances and cut-off times. YOU take responsibility of when you need to be at checkpoints. A day with a great deal of climbing, soft sand or technical train will take longer, allow for this and be prepared. Most multistage races have a long day and it’s fair to say it is the most feared day – keep some energy back for that day. Remember, the long day often has a generous time allowance so don’t be worried by taking a sleep break midway through.

9 – KEEP ON TRACK

Most races will have markers for you to follow but be sensible and self-aware of the challenge. If a race requires you to carry a map and compass, then please understand how to use them. Carry a Spot Tracker for safety and if you use a GPS such as Suunto or Garmin, remember that these watches plot a route that you can use to backtrack. In a race like MDS it is difficult to go off course due to the volume of people, remember though that dunes are not way-marked and you will be given a bearing to run off. If you are alone or in the dark, an understanding of how this works is a positive.

10 – ENJOY IT

A multistage journey often offers so much more than any single-day race. It’s an experience like no other and friends made in the desert, jungle or mountains will stay with you forever. Also remember that this journey is a hark back to a more primitive and simple time – embrace that. Leave gadgets at home and live a simple life for a week – I guarantee it will change you!

contributions from

Elisabet Barnes, Danny Kendall, Jo Meek, Nikki Kimball and Laurence Klein

OVERREACHING for RUNNING PERFORMANCE GAINS

Elisabet and Sondre training in Lanzarote in 2019. They will return again, January 2020.

Recently, I wrote an article about ‘RUNNING and INJURY’ and how fine the balance is between the two (here).

In summary, training is about adding stress to the body and with rest, the body adapts and we come back stronger. Get the balance wrong and we get injured.

The secret is planning and usually we will have an A race or target event that provides an end date for training with maybe one or two, B/C races or Prep events: This is a Macrocycle – typically 1-year but it could be longer. For example, an Olympian may have a 4-year Macrocycle.

This training year is then broken down to Mesocycles, these can be 2-weeks in the shortest scenario or several months, or even a year, in the longest scenario.

Finally, a Microcycle will be one week within the Mesocycle plan, with a plan for each day.

A year plan could look like the following and for simplicity, I am starting in January and ending in December. A Macrocycle though could run, August to August for example:

The above provides an overview of the year. This helps one prepare meticulously knowing how to plan stress and recovery and importantly, it enables one to understand when one needs to peak.

Progress in training is a delicate balance. A failure to not add enough stress and one will not meet potential. But, adding too much stress without relevant rest and recovery, and one risks injury or in an extreme scenario, *overtraining.

But, and this is a big but. For the experienced athlete, overreaching can be an excellent way to make significant progress gains.

WHAT IS OVERREACHING?

Overreaching is often common among the dedicated, obsessed and addicted athletes and in many scenarios, they do not even realise they are doing it. If unmanaged and not planned, it can be a slippery slope that leads to overtraining, so, caution!

Short term periods of overreaching followed with strategically planned recovery, can result in significant gains in endurance, speed and/ or a combination of the two.

This is ‘Functional Overreaching.’

In the Macrocycle above, you will see four periods of graded boxes, June, August, October and November.

These four periods of 1-week have no recovery, they are specifically planned periods of running too hard and/or too far to bring on significant performances gains. This is ‘Supercomensation.’ 

“Supercompensation training is the act of dramatically increasing your training load for a short period of time and then compensating by going very easy to maximize recovery and absorption.” ****

However, these gains will only come with a week or weeks of recovery and de-stress. Continue to add stress with no rest or recovery and injury is likely… If this continues for weeks/ months, then overtraining is distinctly likely. 

A good way to understand an overreach week like this with super supercompensation gains is to imagine one of the following scenarios:

  • Someone running UTMB as a target race and then doing the UTMB route over 4-days in an overreach week.
  • Signing up and joining a specific training camp for one week that provides one or more training sessions per day for a 7-day period.
  • Having entered a 100km race and then specifically planning 3 back-to-back days of running 30km per day.
  • Maybe entering a multi-day race like Marathon des Sables and then replicating a percentage, say 60-75%, of the daily MDS distances and re-creating a mini MDS week in training.

“If the stress and recovery are sufficient we can improve performance and fitness and gain a host of positive physical and mental adaptations. However, if the stress is too high or the recovery is insufficient we may see impairment in performance and fatigue and it may be a significant factor in the development of running injury.” **

In an overreaching phase, it is not unusual to feel depleted, have disrupted sleep and feel mood fluctuations. Everything returns back to normal during the recovery/ rest phase.

Remember, food and nutritional needs, just like training, should be adapted and planned to coincide with training stress.

After a block of planned overreaching, place an emphasis on the following:

  • Recovery
  • Sleep
  • Diet
  • Massage/ physiotherapy
  • Analysis

Overreaching depends on the individual and recovery/ stress levels should be assessed on an individual basis.

“It is commonly known that fatigue can be either positive or negative; everything depends on the scale. On one hand, with more training and exercise, the more trained the athlete will be. On the other hand, if the level of fatigue is not monitored, the athlete may receive an “overdose” of fatigue…” ***

We can all have off days, but if you notice for extended periods you can’t run as fast, run as long, you are moody, constantly tired, seeing fluctuations in resting hear rate, legs are always sore… Chances are you are on the edge of overtraining. You need to kick-back immediately, de-stress and recover.

Remember, the reason for planned functional overreaching is to increase performance. Anything else and you are in non-functional overreaching or in danger of overtraining syndrome. Overtraining syndrome can be difficult to treat and, like many things, prevention is better than cure. 

Finally, planned training, taking time to look at a macrocycle, plan mesocycles and and then implement structured microcycles will improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury by maintaining a balance between stress (both physical and emotional) and recovery.

JOIN OUR TRAINING CAMP, INFORMATION HERE

References:

* – ‘It involves a barrage of symptoms such as decreased motor coordination, force production, and glycolytic capacity, alongside the possibility of recurring infections, sleep disturbances, and depression.’ – Mike T Nelson PH.D

** – Running Physio – https://www.running-physio.com/stress-recovery-balance/

*** – Omega Wave – https://www.omegawave.com/2013/02/06/overreaching-and-overtraining-what-are-they-how-to-avoid-them/

**** – Runners Connect – https://runnersconnect.net/coach-corner/supercompensation-training/

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RUNNING and INJURY

Humans are designed to move, there is no question about it and moving by putting one foot ahead of the other is a rewarding exercise that can be done anywhere at any time. Walking in itself, is an essential part of day-to-day life as it allows us to just function and get around. Running, allows us to cover more ground quickly and it is here that we progress to exploring, racing and seeking to improve.

Improving in anything requires training, you need to train to be a doctor, you need to train to be an artist and in sport, no matter what sport, training is required to improve and progress. By definition, *’Training allows the body to gradually build up strength and endurance, improve skill levels and build motivation, ambition and confidence. Training also allows athletes to gain more knowledge of their sport as well as enabling them to learn about the importance of having a healthy mind and body.’

In running, it has often been said, there are three types of runner:

  • The runner recovering from injury.
  • The runner that is injured.
  • The runner that is about to be injured.

The above is a pessimistic look at a runner, but there is some truth. You see, runners get injured because our bodies are only capable of so many miles or hours. Push too much, too hard, too often and the body breaks.

Sports injuries are commonly caused by overuse, direct impact, or the application of force that is greater than the body part can structurally withstand. Common injuries include bruises, sprains, strains and joint injuries. ******

Training in itself is designed to stress the body so that it adapts. The body breaks down on a cellular level (bone cells and networks of cells deform) with long-running, fast-running, climbing, descending, whatever it may be specific to your chosen discipline. The magic happens when we rest. So, the first lesson is to embrace rest. Rest is not a dirty word; rest is essential to make the training stimulus work.

’Experts recommend training is varied and tailored to specific individual needs; this helps keep motivation and establish individual goals. Athletes should take care to rest fully between training sessions; this will help to prevent overtraining, which can have negative effects on performance and contribute to injuries… Sessions should not be too easy or too demanding; they should be pitched at the appropriate level to facilitate improvement but prevent injury and a lack of self-confidence.’ **

Finding the balance is hard. The stress-v-rest equation is a tough one and difficult to get right. You see, running, and most sports in all honesty are addictive.

‘Sports addiction sounds paradoxical, because we usually reserve the word ‘addiction’ for things that are recognizably bad for us, such as illicit-drug use or alcoholism, but there really is a sense in which you can become addicted to exercise. Even modest athletes can relate to the famous ‘high’ after exercising, triggered by the release of ‘happiness hormones’ such as dopamine and endorphins, which have mood-altering effects.’ ***

It makes sense, just as a drug addict needs a fix of ‘x,’ we as runners need a run to get that kick of endorphins. When we don’t run, we get low, our mood changes and well, we can be a little difficult to be around. But, let’s be clear, the positive and psychological effects of an active lifestyle are proven. Improved fitness, stronger heart, better weight management, increased life expectancy, clearer mind, stronger bones and the list goes on. But like in all things, we need balance.

Irrespective of ability, runners need balance. If you are new to running the balance will be different to the experienced runner who is maybe looking to run a personal best. One thing is common though, all training places stress on the body.

Let’s say you are new to running and looking to go from the Couch to 5km. A week may look like this:

  • Monday – 30 min walk
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – 30 min alternating between 5min walk/ 5 min jog
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Gym working on strength and core
  • Saturday – 30min walk
  • Sunday – 45 min broken down as 5min walk/ 10 min run and repeat

By contrast, an experienced runner looking to break 3-hours in a marathon, may have a week that looks like the following:

  • Monday – 40 min easy run at 90 secs per mile slower than MP
  • Tuesday – 50 min run as 10 min easy, 30min at Marathon Pace, 10 min cool down
  • Wednesday – 90 min endurance run, 1min slower per mile than MP
  • Thursday – 15min war up, hill reps 10 x 2min efforts (85%) on 90 sec recovery, 15 min cool down
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Park Run
  • Sunday – 2hr 15min run as 90min 1min per mile slower than MP, then 30min at MP followed by 15 min easy to cool down

There is a huge difference between the training plans above. Each applies stress in its own way, and both require rest or easier days to allow the body the strength to train hard when required.

Read about OVERREACHING HERE

So, planning is key in a training plan. Runners require a rest day and easier days in a training week, and importantly, they need easier weeks in let’s say, monthly training blocks. A good strategy is building for 3-weeks and dropping down on week 4, so, 8-weeks training in hours (just for illustration) could  look like:

  • Week 1 : 6 hours
  • Week 2 : 8 hours
  • Week 3 : 10 hours
  • Week 4 : 6 hours

 

  • Week 5 : 8 hours
  • Week 6 : 10 hours
  • Week 7 : 12 hours
  • Week 8 : 6 hours

If a runner never gets injured, one could arguably say that they fall in one of two categories:

  1. They have a superb training plan that balances stress, stimulus and rest.
  2. They are not training hard enough and not adding any stress.

Some coaches actually say, that injury is just part of the process and we need to be prepared for it. In a way, I agree, but that does not mean we must not try to avoid injury… On the contrary.

NSMI provide the following information to avoid injury:

  • Warm Up
  • Use the correct equipment (in our scenario, appropriate footwear)
  • Use the correct technique (run style and technique for gym/ weight training)
  • Do not over-reach (Listen to your body, know your limits)
  • Remain hydrated
  • Cool down

The above is a simple bullet list of points that provides a great starting point. But running is a harsh sport that creates great impact and stress, so, maybe we can be a little more creative.

Diet – Food is fuel and it provides us with energy to undertake training and importantly it allows us to recover. So, think about the food you eat and consume good quality calories from a variety of sources.

Cross-Train – Just because you are a runner, you don’t need to run every day. In all honesty, a good cross -training regimen is essential in my opinion to keep the body healthy and the mind healthy. One or two sessions per week in a gym on a stepper, elliptical or rower all increases fitness and gives the ‘running’ body a break. Weight training, core training and yoga are all positives to running.

Treatments – Having a massage every week or every month is a great way to have an overhaul of the body. It’s like taking your car to the garage to make sure that everything is working okay… A good sports therapist seen on a regular basis is a great way of nipping potential niggles before they become injuries.

Get a coach – A good coach will take into consideration your targets, available time, family and life stresses and provide you with a plan that balances stress and rest. In addition, they are a sounding board for your concerns, and they will keep you honest. They will push you when you need it and they will tell you to rest.

Variety – Don’t always run on the same routes. Mix up terrain so that it provides not only physical stimulus but mental stimulus. However, don’t lose sight of the reason why you are running. For example, if your target is a road marathon, you need specific road training. Equally, if you are running a trail 100-miler with loads of vertical, don’t do too much running on the road.

WHAT IF YOU GET INJURED?

The secret is noticing injury early and doing something about it. Runners are historically bad at this and I get it. We all have runs with some level of pain or discomfort and the secret is, in time, understanding what is just training discomfort (stress) or an injury waiting to happen. Simply. When in doubt, do not run.

RICE has often been used as an option in the 24/48-hour window:

  • Rest – At least 48 hours of rest for the injured area
  • Ice – Apply ice packs to the affected area for period of between 10 and 30 minutes. Be sure to place a towel over the injured area before applying the ice pack as direct contact with the skin can cause an ice burn.
  • Compression – In order to reduce swelling and also to restrict movement, compression bandages can be used.
  • Elevation – By raising the injured limb to a comfortable and elevated position, swelling can be reduced, and the limb will be at full rest.

As mentioned above, having a coach or getting regular treatment will help here, as you have at least two avenues to explore and discuss your problem with.

But shit happens and that ‘one extra run’ or not listening to your body is when the scales tip over and injury occurs.

See a professional. Don’t guess, do not go on social media and ask your peers what is wrong. Pick up the phone, get an appointment and start on the right path to a healthy body from the beginning.

There is no one type of injury and of course some injuries can be resolved in a week with some RnR and treatment, whilst others may see you sidelined for weeks, or months.

This is where cross-training in a training plan may well have been a god send. Remember we said early on, runners (all sports people) are addicted to an endorphin kick; we are addicts. So, while you may not be able to do the thing that you really, really want to do. Doing something is always better than nothing! Cross training is almost always given by a sports professional to help you on the road to recovery, so, embrace it.

Rest. Yes, if you have not already realized it. Rest is one of the key disciplines of any training plan. Embrace the rest days.

As an injury progresses and heals, be sensible. The urge to rush out the door and pick up where you left off is not a good idea. Ease the body back in, start slow, be progressive. Add stress, rest a great deal and slowly but surely increase time on feet and avoid any hard sessions. Once the body starts to feel good again, you can start to introduce other training stimulus such as speed and hill work.

Naturally, prevention is better than cure and there are many things that should be advised to professional and amateur athletes alike in order to avoid chronic muscle pain and injuries. Proper alimentation and stretching are key. A diet rich in proteins, vitamin C and A, and zinc, will help rejuvenate muscle tissues and prevent any damage and long-term injury. Making sure enough calories are consumed on a daily basis is also crucial to help maintain the body’s ability to repair itself. Perhaps also counterintuitively, the athlete also has to consume enough fat: an optimal level of fat has been proven to help reduce the inflammation process. Finally, it is recommended to eat within two hours after a workout, as it has been demonstrated that muscle tissue heals faster during these 2 hours-window frames. Stretching exercises are equally recommended by sports specialists in order to help increase flexibility and avoid muscle sprains. Warm-up stretches in particular serve to increase body temperature and prep the body to perform each activity. *****

Finally, learn from the process. Sit down and look at the training that lead to the injury. Try to see markers or key points that you can pinpoint and then moving forward, plan accordingly.

References:

* Here – ** Here – *** Here – **** Here – ***** NSMI – ****** Better Health

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Planning a Running and Racing Year

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You have looked back over 2016 and decided what worked and what didn’t for you, haven’t you? With that information, you have looked at your strengths and weaknesses and you have now started to plan 2017/18, you have, haven’t you?

If the answer to the two above questions is no or maybe even yes, please read my thoughts on what you should be doing now in preparation for a great 2017 of running and racing.

In a previous post I questioned if ‘Base Training’ is something that you should be doing now? (Read HERE) This post was directed at experienced runners or ultra runners who have been in the sport for sometime and have already accumulated many miles and hours of running. They may not need more endurance but speed.

But planning is key. You need to periodise training so that you get the most from it. Below I go through a classic training program that has key phases for a successful season. It’s a classic training program that includes:

  • Base or Speed
  • Build
  • Maintain
  • Recover
  • Build
  • Race
  • Recover

Depending on experience, how this plan is put together is very much dependant on the individual. However, certain key elements should be present in any training plan and this article is intended to provide the basics from which you can develop a strategy that works for you. I must stress, for you!

Firstly, asses last year and understand what worked and what didn’t. This will give you a list of strengths and weaknesses.

  • Did you lack endurance?
  • Did you lack speed?
  • Was your strength and core weak?
  • Were you mentally strong?

The answers to the above questions will help you understand what your plan needs in the coming months.

Secondly, decide on objectives for 2017 and even 2018, decide on A, B and C races. Put them in a diary and ideally have a wall planner so that you have an overview of the year. It’s easy to see how a year looks on a planner.

Set a timescale and work back from THE key ‘A’ race. In our scenario, we are saying that our key race is a 100-mile race, 28 weeks away.

Yes, it’s a long way off but don’t be fooled into thinking you have plenty of time. Key races have a habit of sneaking up on you.

Fancy an early season multi-day TRAINING CAMP? Join us in Lanzarote with 2015 Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes HERE

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100-miles is a long way so *base training and getting the miles in is key. We have allocated 8 weeks for this in the plan below. Hours of easy miles progressively building up to a C race (marathon or 50k). It is always good to have a goal and a target to aim for. The C race is a training race and will have no taper, you would race through it as a training long run.

*A traditional pyramid training plan starts with base and then typically adds speed as an event comes closer. However, we are ultra runners and it is important to be specific. High intensity training creates a lot of fatigue and this is why I am a huge fan of reversing the pyramid and getting speed work done during the winter so that the training plan that leads into an A race is specific to the demands of the race.

So, if you are an experienced ultra runner looking to improve in 2017/18 with years of running and loads of endurance, think about making weeks 1-8 speed based with a fast marathon as a C (or maybe even A) race objective at the end of this block.

When you enter your racing season this will be in the build phase so it’s a good idea to place a B race objective that will allow you to progress to the A goal or multiple A goals.

As you come to the end of the build phase, you should be in form and race fit. What you want to do now is fine tune that form, tweak it and hold it for the A race. If you are cramming long runs in or looking for speed, it’s too late. You basically misjudged the planning or started training too late.

Maintaining what fitness you have is also about being specific to the A target.

  1. Is your 100-mile target race on groomed trail with little elevation gain?
  2. Is it an out-and-out mountain race with gnarly terrain and plenty of elevation gain?

It’s important to be specific now, the two races above require very different approaches. This is something that you will have understood in January (or earlier in the year) when you looked back at last year, looked ahead to this year and understood your strengths and weaknesses so that you could plan accordingly.

  • Scenario 1 requires running, good form and leg speed.
  • Scenario 2 requires hiking, climbing, leg strength and plenty of endurance.

You can’t perform well at every event and this is why A, B and C races are important. Yes I know the elite runners manage to race several key races a year but look at the training and look at the planning. We have all seen top runners turn up at early season races and place just inside or outside the top-10.

Rob Krar and Francois d’Haene provide good examples of how to:

  • Build,
  • Peak,
  • Win,
  • Recover,
  • Build,
  • Peak,
  • Win,
  • Recover,
  • Build,
  • Peak,
  • Win,
  • Recover.

In 1 racing year, both Rob and Francois won 3 x 100-mile races.

That is an incredible skill and for sure as racing becomes more aggressive, faster and more brutal, this training approach is going to become far more important for those who want to race to their own potential and maybe more importantly race year-on-year. We have all witnessed the damage that racing and training too much can do at an elite level runner. Listen to my podcast with Geoff Roes HERE as he provides a great insight into potential problems.

Ask questions such as:

  1. Do I race every weekend?
  2. Do I rest?
  3. Do I allow easy and recovery weeks?
  4. Do I cross train?
  5. Do I sleep well?
  6. How is my nutrition?
  7. Am I constantly tired?
  8. Do I feel alive and full of beans?
  9. How’s my resting heart rate?
  10. Is my pace good?
  11. How’s my strength?
  12. How’s my recovery?
  13. Do I have a plan?
  14. Have I structured my plan to an A race?

The above questions are a starting point. Read through the list and add your own questions to appraise what type of runner you are. It may well be that running for you is an escape and social thing, you may be happy to race week in and week out and you are not worried about gaining a PB or improving; if that is you, great. I’d still say planning some RnR is a good thing to avoid burn out.

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If you are someone looking to perform and improve, you need to be more self critical. Plan your training and periodise your training so that you are able to (hopefully) predict good form on 1 or multiple A race days in a year. This is not easy.

Carefully plan your races in terms of importance, ‘A’ being the most important. Also make the races progressive and inline with your A race. For example, if your A race is a 100-mile race, a C race may be a marathon, a B race may be a 50K or 100K and then the A is the big step of 100-miles.

Remember you can only hold form for a limited length of time and if you want to peak, you need to make sure that this planning stage is done early so that you understand what you are trying to achieve. It’s all about stepping stones.

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of the training blocks you are planning:

  • Are you laying base training?
  • Building fitness?
  • Maintaining fitness?
  • Racing?

A training block with 2 x ‘A’ races (the 2nd race being 100-miles) may look like this:

Base Training Phase

Week 1 – Base or Speed

Week 2 – Base or Speed

Week 3 – Base or Speed

Week 4 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 5 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 6 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 7 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 8 – Base with C Race probably a marathon.

Build Training Phase

Week 9 – Build

Week 10 – Build

Week 11 – Build maybe a C Race just as a long run?

Week 12 – Build

Week 13 – Build

Week 14 – Build with B Race 50K.

Maintain

Week 15 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 16 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 17 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 18 – Maintain/ Taper with A Race

Recovery

Week 19 – Recovery

Week 20 – Recovery easing back into Build.

Build

Week 21 – Build

Week 22 – Build

Week 23 – Build

Week 24 – Build

Week 25 – Build

Week 26 – Build

Week 27 – Taper

Week 28 – Taper and A Race (this scenario 100-miles)

Recover, Recover and Recover.

This article is not a hard and fast plan, it’s a guide for you to go away, look at your targets having assessed past targets and hopefully it makes you think about 2016 objectives so that you can plan for a successful, injury free year of running and racing.

How long should The Long Run be? HERE

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